Kiev Protesters Bring City to Standstill
Published: December 4, 2013 (Issue # 1789)
KIEV — Ukrainian protesters on Monday called President Vladimir Putin their biggest foreign enemy and said only Russian intervention could save Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime from a revolution.
According to varying estimates, between 600,000 and 1.6 million people took to the streets in central Kiev on Sunday to protest Yanukovych’s recent decision to suspend a planned association agreement with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Demonstrators seized City Hall and a trade union federation, turning the buildings into the “revolution’s headquarters.” They also set up a permanent tent camp on Maidan Nezalezhnosti and clashed with police near the presidential administration building, blocking access to it.
On Monday, protesters blocked access to the Cabinet building and effectively occupied the entire center of the city, setting up barricades on major streets and stopping traffic.
Putin spoke out against the ongoing protests in Kiev from Yerevan on Monday evening, calling the demonstrations an “attempt to shake the country’s legitimate rulers,” and accusing “outside actors” of playing a role, Reuters reported.
But while the Russian president hinted that outside forces were to blame for the disorder, protesters in Kiev directed most of their rage at him, scrawling anti-Putin slogans on many billboards and lamp posts in the downtown area.
Some protesters said Yanukovych was trying to copy Putin’s purported authoritarianism, comparing the police’s allegedly brutal actions on Maidan Nezalezhnosti on Nov. 30 to the crackdown at an anti-Putin rally on Bolotnaya Ploshchad in May 2012.
Yanukovych, for his part, called for protesters to maintain peace, saying “any bad peace is better than a good war” in a television interview posted on his website.
Despite his words of peace, rumors were rampant at Monday’s protest of a military invasion, and some demonstrators claimed that Russian special forces had been secretly transported to Ukraine.
Sergei Smolyaninov, a member of Sevastopol’s city council in the pro-Russian Crimea republic, fueled the rumors by urging Putin to invade Ukraine.
Galina, 70, a pensioner, said Yanukovych would try to declare a state of emergency with Putin’s help.
Andrei, 37, an engineer, echoed this sentiment, saying a Russian invasion would be Yanukovych’s only chance of staying in power, adding that he was unhappy with Russia’s meddling in Ukraine.
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